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Realtors double down on ‘polarizing’ slogan: ‘You could do worse’

Realtors Johnny Hewerdine and Tristan Squire-Smith of London, Ont., hit headlines recently after being fired from their brokerage for using what some deemed polarizing content in billboard and social media advertising. CBC notes that the termination letter they received cited professional differences.

Their billboard had been up for several months before “things went south” late last year, the two realtors explain. In their recollection, many consumers loved the content because “it was different.” But competitors didn’t necessarily share that view. 

There was “pushback from the industry,” Hewerdine and Squire-Smith explain. Some took the advertising slogan to be unprofessional and belittling to other agents.

The slogan in question? ‘You could do worse.’

The pair is still using it—in fact, they’ve doubled down on it, having moved to a different brokerage without missing a beat. (They’ve asked that neither their former nor current brokerage be named “out of a desire to maintain professionalism and strong working relationships with our peers while mitigating any outside chance of litigation,” Squire-Smith explains.)



“We’re two blue-collar guys. To be successful, we need to be as authentic as possible…We inject a sense of levity. A lot of people appreciate that approach.”

– Johnny Hewerdine, real estate agent


What’s all the fuss about, you may ask. To many, it’s unclear why this slogan would be considered offensive. It certainly wasn’t intended to be, say Hewerdine and Squire-Smith, who aren’t an official team but have been friends for 20 years (they met on the varsity swim team at Western University) and often help each other out on deals. Hewerdine has been in the business for five years and Squire-Smith for about two.

It turns out that many in the industry took their slogan to mean that the pair was implying they’re better than other agents. 

“They think we’re making fun of them. But we’re just doing our thing,” says Hewerdine. “We’re two blue-collar guys. To be successful, we need to be as authentic as possible…We inject a sense of levity. A lot of people appreciate that approach.”

Squire-Smith adds, “All our ads are objectively compliant. There’s nothing underhanded.”


‘Disruptive’ marketing


The two like to spin their approach as ‘disruptive marketing’—using humour and irony to try to humanize the real estate industry. They explain that they “are not in it to fit the mold” and “don’t want to appear on a billboard, like everyone else,” wearing a suit, with their arms crossed, publicizing their awards. 

“In an industry that presents itself through awards, we go and do the opposite,” says Hewerdine.

To this end, their billboard (they have just one in London, but it changes regularly) and other marketing has featured such scenarios as the two of them touting their tally of zero awards won (“accurate,” they laugh), hoisting underwear up flagpoles, or looking geeky as all get-out in teenage photos of themselves with pimples, braces and even a graduation robe.


Source: Johnny Hewerdine and Tristan Squire-Smith


And let’s not forget explosions. “We love explosions!” they declare, with much roaring laughter. They’re quick to add that these effects aren’t real but rather are part of their “signature listing videos” using green screen and editing. 

Barb Potempa, a current client who sold her London area home with the duo’s help, says, “They have a thing for flames and are constantly burning or blowing things up…I loved all their out-of-the-box approaches and their ‘you could do worse’ slogan.” Potempa believes those who take offence to the latter are “taking this way too seriously.” 

Trying to make people laugh during the stressful process of selling or buying a home and bringing “laughter to a stuffy industry” is what Hewerdine and Squire-Smith are all about, Potempa insists.


Tristan Squire-Smith (left) and Johnny Hewerdine


Different approaches for different clients


The two realtors acknowledge that they “water it down” for cautious clients. They’re aware that their brand of humour isn’t for everyone. “Consumers either love it or hate it. If they hate it, we’ve saved everybody time, and they can find someone more conventional,” says Hewerdine.

“You can’t please everybody. We target like-minded consumers, which makes our business efficient,” he continues. “People call it a niche approach as if that’s a negative. But every business needs a niche.”

He adds, “Together, all our skills are complementary. We couldn’t do it on our own… We’re a bottomless pit of ideas.”

With a new billboard of theirs due out in a few months, there may be more surprises and raised eyebrows in store for London’s real estate industry. 

“We’re breaking that glass ceiling, baby,” laughs Hewerdine.


Editor’s note: The contributed photos have been edited by the subjects to remove the name of their brokerage.